The Stars knew the stakes. Win and they’re in. Win and they win the division. They knew they had to take the Sharks by force and shut down the home crowd momentum. So of course the Stars lapsed defensively and allowed a goal 58 seconds into the game. Joe Pavelski walked into the slot unopposed, and a gaffe like that will not go unpunished when Joe Thornton is on the ice. His pass connected (as they usually do) and Kari Lehtonen didn’t have a chance. The Stars had a chance to rebound with a power play, but didn’t manage to convert. Then the Stars got themselves into penalty trouble, lost the momentum, and gave up a power play goal to the wide open Jason Demers on the back door. They were out shot and out played and the Sharks carved them up. End of 1st: 2-0 Sharks. The Stars had themselves an early power play in the middle frame. This was it, a chance to grab the momentum and change the game. But the Stars were out of sorts, the power play was fruitless, and a 4-on-4 just a few minutes later resulted in another Sharks goal. Pavelski picked up his second of the night, tipping in a shot from the point. There was a brief period of a momentum for the Stars in the final minute of the period, but the Stars couldn’t get anything substantial out of it. End of 2nd: 3-0 Sharks. There were some brief hopes of a miraculous comeback, but that was derailed with a series of penalties that led to a San Jose 5-on-3 and Steve Ott being handed a 10 minute misconduct. The Stars simply lost any momentum they could have garnered. The game limped to its finish in unspectacular fashion. Final score: 3-0 Sharks.
What It Means:
Obviously, the HP Pavilion (aka the Shark Tank) is a daunting place for any visiting team. Home ice advantage is a crucial part of this game. The mental aspect of it can not be overstated, and to be a successful road team, you need to win that mental battle and perform no matter the venue. Of course, the Stars have been a great road team this year, but they weren’t tonight. They lost the mental game. The Sharks and the Sharks’ faithful defeated the Stars tonight, or they defeated themselves. It’s almost one in the same, really. All the positive feelings, all the hope following that incredible streak have simply evaporated. The Stars are now in a a struggle just to earn a playoff spot, a sadly familiar position for Stars fans, but a decidedly more painful one after the massive success we saw this team have. Rewind a week, the Pacific Division was there for the taking! The biggest surprise of the NHL aside from the St. Louis Blues! It was all right there, and now it seems like it’s fallen down a cliff. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means the end of the season for the Stars, they can still control their own destiny with a win on Tuesday night, but do the Stars have what it takes to bounce back? They’ve now dropped 3 out of 4 games on this road trip. Not much bounce back to speak of. They’ll be back in the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center, it’ll once again be up to them. Game notes:
- Toby Petersen played tonight for the first time since February 26th in lieu of Reilly Smith, who was scratched. The general consensus was that this was done to provide veteran experience on the back end.
- The Los Angeles Kings continue to lead the Pacific Division after their win and the Stars loss.
- The Stars don’t need to depend on any help to get into the playoffs if they win on Tuesday night. Of course they’d have to beat Nashville and St. Louis after that, but hey, who said it would be easy?
The Stars get a couple much earned days off before concluding the home and home with San Jose back in Dallas on Tuesday night. I’ve already discussed the importance of this game. It doesn’t need to be explained any further. Pack the AAC and give these Stars some life.
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